A Closer Look At Some Favorite Berries

By Sarah Bailes | July 6, 2016
Image by Sarah Bailes
by Sarah Bailes
July 6, 2016

Sarah Bailes is a Deputy Head Gardener and Education Coordinator of a large estate near Reading (town in Berkshire in the South East of England) and has been in horticulture professionally for 12 years. The gardens supply the house and parties all year round with fresh fruit and vegetables. Sarah has always loved gardening and feels that, when explained, anyone can achieve success with vegetable or flower gardening.


This July I am focusing my attention on the Raspberry world.

With the classic British weather of rain and sun, it will make berries plump and sweet and ready for us to eat!

I love raspberries. So small, yet so big on flavor, and still soft enough that they please everyone. However, many people find growing them very hard. I feel that everyone should have the joy of going out into the garden and picking fresh raspberries. So here is an easy know how to growing them.

Firstly, know your variety. Even if you get your raspberry canes from a friend, and they don’t know what they are called, ask when you can expect the raspberries to fruit. Raspberries fall into summer bearing or autumn bearing.

Summer bearing raspberries tend to fruit early and the first ones can be a bit pippy as there is less sun around to sweeten them. But don’t be disheartened – the best is yet to come. They will repeatedly flower and then fruit throughout the summer.

The technical bit!

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How to prune a summer fruiting raspberry?

When the summer fruiting stops you should be left with a lot of brown stems. If you look at the base of your plant, you will see each of the stems come from a clump directly from the base. You want each plant to have about 3-5 stems coming from them. All the rest of the stems should be cut back to the base. This may seem harsh, but by thinning out you are actually increasing the plant’s abilities to produce more fruit in the following year. If you are training your fruit, you can also choose the best stems that fit to your wire structure frame. If you are growing your raspberries as a bush, choosing which stems you can cut away from the lawn or path is always useful.

The autumn raspberries produce bigger fruits with a much deeper taste towards the end of August. These plants also tend to be a bit spikier on the stems so watch out when picking your fruit. Fruiting can continue into December with warm weather, so keep on picking.

Once the plant has finished fruiting, you must leave the stems alone until February. This protects the buds for the following year. You then cut down all the stems to the base and the plant will re-shoot them around the April time frame.

 

How to use all those Raspberries?

There are so many ways you can use raspberries, but here is something a little special and different for everyone. In July last year, I made a great raspberry drink for a hot summer’s evening called Sarah’s Raspberry Cooler. It is a non-alcoholic and child friendly drink. It was easy to make as I had so many raspberries from the garden and everyone seemed to like it so here it is.

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From the garden:

  • As many raspberries as you have – I used about two bowls full
  • Mint – two good bunches depending on how much you like it.

 

From the cupboard

  • Some honey or maple syrup
  • Vanilla essence/extract (I like this so I use a lot!)
  • Lemonade

How to make it

  1. Put the raspberries, maple syrup or honey and vanilla into a sauce pan and press gently with a spoon to help release the raspberry juice. The amount of maple syrup or honey you use depends on how sweet you like things.
  2. Then sieve out all the pips until you are left with a liquid.
  3. Add this liquid to a glass of lemonade and ice with some crushed mint leaves. I also like to add a few whole raspberries at the end for decoration.

This is a great posh drink for kids and adults who are designated drivers at a BBQ or special occasion. It can easily be made in advanced and mixed when being served.

For more garden to kitchen recipes and great easy growing tips, check out my blog at https://simplygardentokitchenmadeeasy.wordpress.com

Strawberriesjuneberry3

Strawberries will be plentiful if the weather conditions are right. Pick them when they are red all over – this is when they are the sweetest. You can help them to grow better by keeping them weed-free to reduce the competition for space and sun light. Many people use strawberries as ornamental plants too. They look great in a hanging basket or as an edge to a vegetable bed.

Watch out for slugs and snails that get to the fruits before you do. You can place straw or matting underneath the plants to help keep slugs away and protect the fruit from splash back from the soil when it rains.juneberry4

Strawberries are hungry plants so keep them well watered and fed to help them make fruit. For more fruit production, keep your plants flowering and make sure you cut off any runners. This will stop the plant from going into reproductive mode and keep it producing flowers which make the fruit. You can plant these cuttings and use the tail from the parent plant as an anchor in the soil. This anchor will swell and produce roots and you will have a new plant for next year. Try to replace strawberry plants after three years as they will exhaust their fruiting and the number of strawberries you have will reduce.

There are so many ways to use strawberries from cheesecakes to jam and homemade lolly pops.

juneberry5The slightly forgotten Gooseberry

Another berry plant, and much underrated, is the gooseberry plant. Although considered an old fashioned plant that’s too prickly to grow, when grown as a cordon or straight up, you can still pick those sweet and sour berries without getting your finger cut too badly.

To grow in a cordon, choose one strong central stem and train it to grow up a bamboo cane. Make sure you cut back the surrounding growth as this is what allows you to be able to reach the fruits in June. Keep an eye on the fruit as they will burst their skins if left too long before picking.

Gooseberry Grattan

From the Garden

  • Mixed Gooseberries
  • Mint

From the cupboard

  • Sugar or sugar substitute
  • Vanilla

How to make it

  • Slowly cook the gooseberries until their skins pop open.
  • Sieve to remove the skins and any garden bits that have been missed as well as their tops and tails.
  • Return to the heat and add the sugar and vanilla and crushed mint leaves.
  • Place all the ingredients into a freezer proof dish and place in the freezer.
  • Bring out to defrost a bit before serving and run a fork through it to get some good texture.

Enjoy this sweet and sour hot June day treat.

 

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